Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Making A List, And Why A Sponsor Is A Good Thing.

Step 8 reads:

"Made a list of all people we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

With reference to some of the people on my list, that willingness was absent. I put them on the list, but that's where it ended; willingness to make an amend to them was in the category of "Not bleeding likely."

This unwillingness distressed me, and I began the old dance of bashing myself for not feeling the way I thought I should. And/or the way I imagined other people thought I should. Being the head case I am was, I slowly became more and more obsessed with this perceived lack in my character, until it was blown completely out of proportion in my life, and began to block the light. That lack was all I could see, when my sponsor and I sat down to work the Steps together.

Wise woman that she was, she wondered aloud if it were possible that this new and crazed obsession of mine was a way to concentrate upon something which would keep me hung up on Step 8, so I didn't have to take the next inevitable step in the process - working Step 9 -  "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

I was gobsmacked. (She did that to me a lot - reached in and picked out what was keeping me stuck, and said "Hmm, what's this, I wonder?"  Maddening woman.) I went home convinced that she was mistaken, but woke up the next morning, thought about it, and began to laugh; it was so perfectly an avoidance mechanism, and I had been so completely oblivious. When next we spoke, I explained that I'd decided to put that aside, and just get on with it, praying to be granted willingness, rather than trying to make it up out of whole cloth myself.

Letting go of that allowed me to proceed, with the inevitable positive result.

For me, a sponsor does for me what I occasionally cannot do for myself, and that is: see me with enough clarity to figure out just what little game I'm playing here, while loudly protesting my innocence. Self-deception can keep me stuck in old ways of thought and behavior. It can allow me to justify, and rationalise.

There are aspects of our own characters, which hide as behind a curtain, opaque only to our own gaze; anyone else can see through it perfectly well. That just seems to be how we are made.

I am reminded of a cat we once had, who was a holy terror for leaping out from concealed places to scare the living daylights out of us. In the laundry room, we kept a towel hanging over the sink next to the dryer. This cat would stand on the dryer, and stick his head behind the towel. He believed that because he then couldn't see us, we also couldn't see him. He'd stand there, head concealed, big black fluffy body on the gleaming white of the dryer, then pop his head out with an air of "Gotcha!"

If we didn't pretend to have been startled, he'd do that cat thing of immediately beginning to groom a paw, stopping to look at us with disdain as if to say "Oh, are you in here? I hadn't noticed."

After a while of working the Steps with my sponsor, I began to see similarities between our thinking, me and the cat. We were both under the impression that we were hiding successfully.

When willingness is beyond my ability to produce, I can pray to be granted some. But first, I have to truly want it, and not being playing one of those games of claiming I want it, while doing everything in my power to put obstacles in my own way.


  1. I just loved this! Yep..I'm that cat too sometimes. Like if I close my eyes, no one can see me. Sometimes, I just have to be willing to be willing to be willing. Darn it..


  2. Sometimes people post things that are so true for me, I wonder for a moment if they (you) are deliberately writing those posts for my benefit. ("Is she writing that because she read my post yesterday? And wants to correct me? ...")

    Tee hee. Self centred me.

    The beauty of this program is that you are not. We share common responses to life and to alcohol. My response is your response is his response... which is somehow comforting. I am not alone. We are not alone.

    Thanks for this honest post. You're speaking my thoughts, with greater clarity than I can.

  3. My sponsor keeps me grounded and leads me back to the tools of Al-Anon when my ego takes me away. Great post.